I’ve written about the Transgender Day of Visibility (#TDOV) – meant to be a positive and the more negative memorialised Transgender Day of Remembrance (#TDOR) most years. Since 2014’s “transgender tipping point” and 2015’s year of transgender visibility, we now seem to be getting too much visibility and attention and not necessarily of a good kind. For with the visibility has come the vitriolic verbal violence that says we should go back into the closet and certainly not share one with cisgender people that match our gender identity. By that I mean trans women should not be seen in the same spaces or private areas (toilets, changing rooms, gyms, pools etc) as “real” “biological” women. Of course, the flipside is rarely addressed, i.e., whether trans men should be allowed in male gyms or loos and which instead silently suggests they should know their place and continue to use women’s facilities with their beards, biceps and deep voices.
I’m not going into the ‘debates’ – I do that enough already with so-called ‘TERFs’ in person, privately, and online. I do, however, try to listen to concerns and allay them when overwhelmingly they are misplaced. That is not to say that the fears don’t feel real or come from personal but perhaps projected experience. The problem of men’s violence against women and girls (VAWG) should not be erased in the fight for trans equality and respect. Equally, men’s VAWG should not be projected onto all or any trans people as some kind of 1980s homosexual moral panic 2.0.
Rather, I want to talk about allies and mutual respect. Firstly, the latter. For many years I co-ran with some University feminist academics and local LGBT thinkers a Gender and Sexuality discussion group. There was never any trans exclusion but what did come up, very occasionally, was the idea that some trans people still had traces of male privilege and/or needed to go on a Feminism 101 induction course., and that we hadn’t experienced female oppression. It was never denied that we hadn’t experienced our own oppression and bullying for not conforming to gender construct norms. So our battle against gender oppression overlapped but was not the same. Being able to separate the personal from the analytical enabled me to discuss this without ever getting offended, though the first time I was called privileged it did hurt as it never felt that way, and I regard most privilege as relative, indeed being cisgendered is to have a presumed privilege of never having doubted one’s gender or suffered from gender dysphoria and its mental health associations.
Passing Privilege is something that many trans people long for but is not exclusively a trans issue. At recent gender critical discussions, I was somewhat amused to discover that trans people were accessing gender-aligned toilets with ease but some cisgender women were being questioned by other women for using toilets that didn’t seem to match their non-femme presentations. Just going to show that can’t always spot a trans person at 100 paces! I’ve never been questioned in a toilet except the men’s!
As to mutual respect, though, I’ve always felt that being accepted as female (actually I identify as non-binary but we don’t have our own changing rooms yet!) does not mean asserting that as a right but rather a privilege. The Equality Act (2010) and Gender Recognition Act (2004) may say that we should be treated equally and with respect but respect is also earned and the privilege of sharing same-sex spaces as ‘re-gendered’ individuals should be treated with gratefulness and grace not some sense of entitlement. If society follows the law then it does so not by waving GRCs or EA rules in people’s faces but by a growing sense of not just tolerance and acceptance but welcoming inclusion. An inclusion that, to me at least, comes from respecting the people whose space you are entering and sharing. Yes, we can exercise our rights but some rights are also won by mutual respect, not by a muscular assertion of them. I’ve only ever gone into women’s spaces that I felt welcome in, irrespective of what the law says. Most times I was invited, other times I enter cautiously and tread gently to see how I would be received.
At recent gender and trans discussions and events, I have actually found the issue was less that men or trans were vehemently asserting their views but instead two different groups of feminists were arguing over whether it was sisters or cisters, whether biology should be destiny or diversity, and over what form inclusion and intersectionality should take.
Now, more than ever, is the time not for Trans Visibility but for Allies Visibility and for that I thank them because it is indeed encouraging how many there are. They are the many, the majority, social attitudes have changed. Whether they are ‘cishet’ supporters or the #LwithTheT, we need to be allies not enemies, our rights were won by standing together be they the black trans women and queens standing with – or indeed starting, the early gay riots and Prides, or the LGBT movement standing with the miners or on other shared political platforms.
The ‘TERF’ kickback, the no LGBT education in faith schools, the occasional cases of trans violence upon cis (and more frequent vice versa cases) – these are all thankfully minority pockets of non-acceptance or abuse. We do live in better times and we should celebrate progress and the far more intersectional and diverse society we live in and how most of us get on and respect each other. I’m hoping the so-called ‘War upon Women/Trans’ (delete as appropriate depending which side you are on) is a passing hiccough in the march for LGBTQ acceptance and inclusion and treating each other as humans not labels or threats. History is littered with exclusion but the future is surely about inclusion.
In the current febrile atmosphere surround transgender women in single-sex spaces and indeed both trans and intersex trait women in sport, today – International Women’s Day is a good day to celebrate all women. Indeed, one of my preferred yet also subtle ways of being inclusive has been the addition of a plus sign at the end of many Women’s events, groups and societies. Women+ is such a (pun-intended) positive way of demonstrating inclusivity and intersectionality without erasing the word woman.
I like International Women’s Day because the only adjective added is international – inclusive of all women the world over. It is refreshingly broad in an age of exclusionary defining language such as biological woman, cisgender woman, natal woman, real woman, trans woman or woman defined by vagina, womb, low testosterone, motherhood, violence, abuse or oppression.
“…every female human being is not necessarily a woman; to be so considered she must share in that mysterious and threatened reality known as femininity. Is this attribute something secreted by the ovaries? Or is it a Platonic essence, a product of the philosophic imagination?” – Simone de Beauvoir, ‘The Second Sex’, introduction (1949)
Not every woman has the same experience and I’m not talking trans here, but the individual diversity of female lived experience. Some women have privilege, some at 21 are billionaires (Kylie Jenner). Some as Ivanka Trump, daughter of POTUS, are out of touch and have said people don’t need welfare and would be happy to make their own way in the world.
If biology – wombs, vaginas etc, is the root of women’s oppression why should their definition be rooted in oppression? Why not define by the positive factors of community, sisterhood, inclusion, lifting each other up, social enterprise, leaving no one behind, intersectionality and inclusion.
My response to the following greeting on #IWD on my Facebook wall was this:
Thank you. I feel honoured to be called a woman by women, whether I’m inspirational or not, in the current climate. It’s not an aspect of my identity I’ve used to gain entry to women’s spaces instead I’ve been consistently invited, welcomed, respected and included – and for that, I thank every other woman, most of whom are inspirational to me.
I define as a biological natal real human first, not cis or trans, intersex, male or female, man or woman, non-binary or otherwise.
I want to be known for my humanity, though. I have to admit I see more of that expressed in and by women, but not exclusively so.
Women are not angels, nor devils wearing Prada, they are human. Capable of greatness and also of harm and hurt, like anyone else.
Being a superhero-loving film buff, I found it particularly appropriate to go and see Captain Marvel today, a film in which the world is saved by a woman – without the help of a man, she even talks to other women – not about men, thereby passing the Bechdel test. Without an actual plot spoiler I’ll quote one short dialogue from the film:
“We’ll be back for the weapon”
“No, the WOMAN”
Take that how you like, I see the positive in it, woman and women’s power for positivity in this world.
I’ll end with a tweet I saw this morning that shouts out to me about the behaviour of some women (“some” RadFems/GC Feminists, “some” Trans etc). It says to me that you don’t raise yourself up by bringing other women down.
We’re growing, we’re finding liberation but there’s still one thing pulling us back- Dragging down other women for their size, style, race, or any other preference. Be confident enough to not walk over somebody else to feel better! More power to us! ❤️#InternationalWomensDaypic.twitter.com/Cjhhd3AkLW
Every 24 hours a trans person is murdered, 369 this year, nearly 3,000 the last 10 years – that we know about, i.e., it may only be the tip of the iceberg. It is a number that is rising annually and particularly affects those in the Americas but also in over 70 other countries around the world.
Since 1999, the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) has taken place every November, now following the newer Trans Awareness Week. It is the day when we recall and respect those trans and gender-diverse people who have been victims of murder or manslaughter. It does not include the countless numbers that take their own lives through suicide. Trans women of colour are the most likely to be killed of all transgender people, especially, but far from exclusively, those involved in sex work. Also, everyone from hairdressers to artists and activists, and many who were migrants.
The person picked up in the media for being trans and a victim of violent crime in England and hence the only UK trans person this year to be added to the long list of transgender people killed was Naomi Hersi. Sadly, she typifies the fairly common context for many. She was a trans woman of colour, and a victim of violence during or after a sexual encounter. Ironically, she last tweeted 3-years before her death about trans women of colour facing an epidemic of violence and murder.
Sadly, around the world, trans people are often in the news for the shocking recurrence of their frequent murders. Not in the news are the statistics that trans women can be even more prone than cis women to sexual violence and abuse, as many as 1-in-2.
That flies in the face of the alternate narrative put out by those fearing Trans rights and suggesting that trans women are rapists and murderers in drag, abusing gender self-ID (which in the UK we haven’t even got yet). The statistics of male-born sexual assault perpetrators in prison who may now be transitioning actually shows that gender self-ID isn’t the problem, but abusers are. The majority never dressed as women in order to abuse.
Transgender people are in the news or online media nearly every day. Frequently, there are several trans-questioning or outright transphobic articles in The Times every 7-10 days, not to mention other papers such as the Daily Mail, (I counted 7 in a 4-day period during late October in the DM alone) and continuous TV and Radio programmes to boot.
Last year, Ruth Hunt, CEO of Stonewalldescribed Britain today as “at an absolute crisis point in how it treats trans people”, in no small part down to media attention.
“Britain is no longer considered a safe part of the world for trans people to live in…It should be considered a national embarrassment that this is where we now are as a nation.” – Ruth Hunt, Stonewall
Instead of the prurient public interest being in trans ‘sex changes’, former lives, and scaremongering fears of ‘sex pest perverts’ in toilets or prison (where they should be), the media should be concerned about the levels of abuse, bullying, murder and suicide that so blight trans lives.
The escalation to a “hostile environment” due to the ‘debate’ around an updated Gender Recognition Act (GRA) between some feminists (colloquially known as TERFs by trans people, but not a term owned by the so-monikered trans or gender critical radical feminists) and transgender people – mostly but not exclusively directed at trans women, has led to a toxic atmosphere.
Trans people’s lives are already under a microscope as part of their transition pathway, but to be so in the media spotlight too puts their private and social lives up for involuntary discussion and invasive dissection.
Lucy Meadows took her own life in 2013 in strong part due to “the toll the press was taking on her mental health”, says her former partner. “The media later claimed, [that] by putting out an “official” letter, the school [where she taught] had “officially” placed Lucy’s transition in the domain of public interest.”
Two years ago, saw 295 trans and gender-diverse persons added to the list of those killed for being trans. Last year that number was 325, up 10%. This year it went up 13% to 369. Improved news monitoring could account for it but hate and visibility are also on the rise.
“These figures only show the tip of the iceberg of homicides of trans and gender-diverse people on a worldwide scale.”
The majority of the murders occurred in Brazil (167 static but up 40% from 2016 and who knows what climate Brazil’s new leader will bring), Mexico (71 up from 56), and the United States (28 up from 25 and 23 in 2016), adding up to a total of 2,982 reported cases in 72 countries worldwide between 1st of January 2008 and 30th of September 2018.
16 trans people were killed in Europe (up 300% from 2017 and 60% from 2016)
28 in the USA (4x more likely than in Europe, 6x UK)
71 in Mexico (up 40% on 2017)
167 in Brazil (37x more likely than in Europe, 53x UK)
You are 17x more at risk in the US than in India but 8x more at risk in Pakistan than India. Hate crimes against trans people in America were up 44% in 2016, according to FBI data. Donald Trump has recently tried to define sex in such a way that would make gender transition a legal non-entity.
“Since the election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence, there has been a notable increase in the vitriol and anti-transgender rhetoric — from the top levels of government down through the rest of American society.” – HRC Report
The majority of murders were of trans women (80% in the US)
Over 15% were sex workers (6% were hairdressers & 3% were activists)
Majority of the reported murder victims in W.Europe were migrants
Most of the victims in the US were people of colour
The majority of the victims were under 30 years old
In many countries, trans and gender non-conforming people live riskier lives, not by choice, but usually as a last resort due to the oppression, rejection and lack of rights within their cultures and societies. Many struggle to find work to survive, let alone to transition, and resort to sex work and/or flee their countries as migrants. Either or both of these paths putting them into the line of fire of greater exploitation and risk.
These numbers do not include suicides, the countless thousands who take their own lives – around 40% try, twice as many consider it. Sometimes it is the result of an attack:
Today I think about my smart, beautiful, open hearted friend Sarah. She was a courageous woman who fought every day for a more equal kind world. After a brutal attack ripped her of her dignity she took her own life, today we light candles but everyday we must love harder #TDOR
These numbers barely scratch the surface of the actual violence trans people experience, as much goes unrecorded, or are cause/status unknown.
Many countries don’t mention trans status in reports of violent death or in their internal statistics – particularly in anti-LGBT regimes and regions. Again, many may be killed in their acquired gender but the death not be because of it, or their pre-transition life simply not known about.
In addition to violent deaths, 1-in-2 trans people experience domestic abuse and/or sexual violence (DASV). Trans men and women alike often suffer in silence and fear that shelters and services won’t be there for them.
81% of trans people have suffered physical and/or verbal abuse.
Are they not women if people and society perceive them as such and treat them equally badly?
Yes, their social and biological experience when growing up is not that of natal/cis women but many in medicine now recognise a biological rather than purely psychological basis for the origins of gender dysphoria.
“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity.” – The Endocrine Society
How then can some in society – conservative religions, some feminists, right-wing journalists, far-right radicals think that being trans male or female is something we need to fight against?
The personal is political and it’s hard to avoid the political, for murder is as personal as it gets. The irony that this was a rallying cry of late 1960s/70s Second Wave Feminism and yet is also the lived and embodied risk of being trans is not lost on me. Women regularly experience sexism and discrimination because of their sex. Black women even more so, adding racism to the crimes against their person.
The majority of feminists recognise the intersections between sex, sexuality and colour, not to mention class. Again, most modern and particularly young student feminists recognise the further intersection with gender identity. A few do not, and instead regard trans women as a threat to gendered spaces and trans men as traitors erasing butch lesbianism.
The conflation of sex with gender and/or sexuality is an issue needing improved education to better understand people’s authentic ‘born this way’ identities.
Don’t scapegoat us as perverts and rapists. Don’t harm us and kill us. Instead, be allies, support us to be ourselves, and let’s bring these murder, abuse, and suicide rates down in future years!
What can we do?
end discrimination at work, in training and employment opportunities
provide decent healthcare
create healthy environments at school to explore identity and expression
recognise that Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence happen to trans women and men too, at the hands of cisgendered men and women
ensure prejudice is rooted out of criminal justice and police systems
provide legal protections against online and offline hate
end the language of erasure and exclusion between TERFs, as well as other vociferous transphobes, and Trans
develop positive dialogues rather than debate our right to exist
foster greater unity with allies of the wider LGBT+ and feminist communities
“When people die
Their smiles are taken from us
Who might have seen them
And smiled back.
Their songs are taken from us
Who might have heard
And listened and been glad. Their stories are remembered By us, on this day And always.”
TDOR remembrance meetups are held around the UK including London, Liverpool, Brighton, and Norwich, as well as worldwide including Paris and New York and dozens of other locations.
“Our Service for Transgender Day of Remembrance is a way of showing our commitment as people of faith; of declaring that the lives and the rights of transgender people matter to us all and ultimately to our community and our society if prejudice and intolerance are to be banished in the name of equality, diversity, justice and peace.” – Fr Christopher Wood, Rector of St John’s Timberhill Church, Norwich
Ten years of Norwich Pride and decades of trans support groups stretching back to Barbara Ross, OBE, Oasis and now more than half a dozen active groups supporting trans youth, non-binary, trans men, trans women, and families of trans, mean that Norwich provides a generally safe and supportive environment for trans people and gender dysphoric or questioning youth.
“These statistics are horrific and we all need to do more to support transgender people and ensure they can be safe and proud to be themselves.” – Michelle Savage, Norwich Pride
The Gender Recognition Act (2004) aided that for some but not for all since it was not relevant to many transitioning people being mainly a requirement for pre-Equal, well Same-Sex anyway, marriage legal innovation. It is now front and centre of the new battle within feminism(s), the so-called “War on Women”, discussion of who or what is a woman, access to single-sex spaces and support services, and updates to the GRA.
“United We Stand, Divided We Fall”
We divide and misrule at our peril. Surely, to stand on the right side of history is to be on the side of progress towards human rights for all, not resisting them. Fourth-wave feminism understands intersectionality and trans sisters far more inclusively than second-wave feminism. This unfortunate fight is as much a battle within feminisms as it is between genders. Interestingly, just 59% of Mumsnet users call themselves feminists yet many have joined the trans resistance, i.e., are resisting the extension of gender-identity rights.
That said, there are peaceful cooperative ways to discuss legal provisions among those that are affected by the laws. Though, to be honest, since the majority of trans people don’t even bother with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) and have been accessing the most appropriate spaces and services to their gender or stage of transition for years, it hasn’t been a ‘problem’ until now. Equally, over half-a-dozen countries have introduced gender self-ID since 2012 to no known problems.
The UK seems to be unique in perceiving it as a massive attack upon the rights of and risks towards women. It is also tearing the Labour Party apart, much as the current discussion of alleged anti-semitism within it is. The vitriol of calling both trans activists and ‘TERF’s (see below) ‘Fascists’ is laughable since the majority of those fighting each other are Socialists, Marxists, and generally people on the Left of British politics, several of whom have been suspended or ejected from the Labour Party over this issue.
Visible Transgender History
One vocal opponent (aka ‘TERF’ or a Radical Feminist who opposes the inclusion of trans women in female spaces and a term considered a slur by them despite its reasonably accurate abbreviated description) said this week that “Transgenderism wasn’t a thing. It didn’t exist 30 years ago.”
You will of course notice it was only lesbians and gay men. No trans. Transgenderism wasn’t a thing. It didn’t exist 30 years ago. I marched and campaigned against Section 28 as a young lesbian. #WarOnWomen#WarOnLesbianshttps://t.co/U2LtwA9532
The willful ignorance of the history of transgender, third gender, and gender non-conforming individuals, is astonishing here. Not to mention, the nearly 50-years-ago trans-washing of the Stonewall riots (1969) and the numerous trans women and transvestites involved in protesting police violence and state criminalisation of LGBT people.
“people have been crossing gender boundaries for millennia and in all kinds of civilisations” – Christine Burns,History Today
All of these transgender people (a third of whom are trans men) and thousands more clearly existed 30 years ago and had surgeries more than 40 years ago:
“Respectful, calm debate is necessary. How society and medicine deal with gender requires critical review in terms of the potential for unintended harms, even if there are no easy answers.” – Dr Margaret McCartney:Medicine must do better on gender, BMJ
Ongoing research is clearly needed and continues to show a biological/nature more than social/nurture origin of gender identity without it being a question of respecting people’s self-identity, whether part of gender dysphoria or not – something I struggled with for years.
“Considerable scientific evidence has emerged demonstrating a durable biological element underlying gender identity. Individuals may make choices due to other factors in their lives, but there do not seem to be external forces that genuinely cause individuals to change gender identity. Although the specific mechanisms guiding the biological underpinnings of gender identity are not entirely understood, there is evolving consensus that being transgender is not a mental health disorder.” – Endocrine Society
We sorely need a message of mutual respect and inclusion not trans exclusion, but the way it is being discussed in a verbally violent polarised way is making it a debate about people’s identity, human rights, legal protections (I admit these go both ways within the EA, but not the GRA) and making it seem as if trans women don’t care about natal women’s rights to freedom from abuse.
We should be fighting abuse together
Violence towards women is something that should not be projected onto the vast majority of trans women as if it were some kind of demonising 1980s homosexual moral panic.
We need to fight and protect against Domestic Abuse and Sexual Violence (DASV) together not apart.
No transfeminine person is trying to close down the discussion of the abuse of cis women and girls we are simply saying we need an expansion of that discourse to accommodate our experiences too – given that its the same men abusing us all often its in our shared interest!
The majority of the victims are indeed women (including trans women) and the majority of the perpetrators are men – 90% of whom are known to victims, so the idea of ‘stranger danger’ and men using female self-identity to access women’s safe spaces is an extreme rarity and not indicative of real trans lives.
The third Norwich Reclaim the Night took place on International Women’s Day 2018, spearheaded by UEA students and young intersectional and international feminists. It was inclusive of trans and non-binary people, as well as men, focusing on safety for all not gender. Sex worker freedom from violence, intimidation and harassment was also signposted. This was feminism for all without any infighting or exclusion.
“Many marches are women-only and sadly some groups have discriminated against trans participants… We came out to show that Norwich is no longer a place where you can be harmed or discriminated against for the colour of your skin, your faith, gender, sex, nationality or sexual orientation.” – UEA event organising group
March chants – and Poppy Rose was in good voice, included:
“Love, not hate
Makes Norwich great!”
“Claim our bodies
Claim our right
Make a stand
Take back the night!”
The march of some 50-plus people was one of solidarity, safety, and sensitivity, looking after the welfare of everyone involved, several of whom spoke of surviving sexual abuse or other forms of harassment.
During the march, some dozen men on the streets asked me what it was about – there was no mockery but positive approval. Women standing in the queue for nightclubs gave us whoop-whoops as we passed, a couple of times cars honked their horns in solidarity.
This is indicative of how positive Norwich can be.
Unlike other Reclaim the Night events across the country, such as in London, which is considered a ‘women-only’ march, Norwich’s variation promotes an all-inclusive attitude towards supporting all individuals who may be affected by sexual harassment. Second year student, Ryan Jordan, who also delivered a speech and performed several poems, said,
“When I performed, my heart was pounding at first. But in the second half, I thought, ‘I’m with people who are amazing, and in Norwich you feel that you can do anything, unlike London…You’ve got a beautifully different array of people. It feels so safe. And UEA has always been very accepting. I feel okay being myself, and I feel that’s what Reclaim the Night is about.” – Ryan Jordan, as reported by Chloe Howcroft
As an invited speaker, for the second year running, I was loathed to draw attention to the issues of trans people, particularly trans women, and especially on #IWD, but current media headlines necessitated it and it was a safe place to do so given how inclusive an event the organising team had made it.
Here’s what I had to say:
Norwich Reclaim the Night 2018 speech
“Reclaim the night is an annual march … intended to reclaim bodily autonomy and space that is often stolen from us by gendered and sexual violence”
Student-organised Reclaim the Nights tend to be women and non-binary, and male allies and victims inclusive – many don’t even mention trans inclusivity as it’s taken for granted that trans women would be included in women.
“All genders welcome. This is a sex-worker inclusive event, and we actively advocate for the decriminalisation of sex work. This is also an explicitly trans inclusive march. Given the chequered history of Reclaim the Night elsewhere in the country, we consider this vital to state clearly, and to do all we can to challenge the worrying rise of so-called radical feminism” – Brighton
Trans people are no safer on the streets than cis gender women, creating safe spaces on our streets, at our workplaces, in our homes (where 90% of DASV occurs among people we know, ie not stranger violence) is about protecting the vulnerable and policing the aggressors, not stereotyping and dividing down overly-simplistic/reductionist gendered lines.
Solidarity, inclusivity, and intersectionality should be with all victims of violence and gender-based oppression.
We should be fighting oppression, arm-in-arm, not fighting each other.
Artist and friend, Katherine Gilmartin, says:
“Boss babes see one another fighting for not with other women and systems.”
One Billion Rising, International Women’s Day and Reclaim the Night are all occasions when I prefer to emphasise women and girls and not draw attention to trans specific issues, but the current heat on trans women makes it unavoidable.
It is claimed that trans women mark the same level of risk to cisgender women as cisgender men do when in fact they are themselves at a higher risk of some types of abuse and attack (and ironically trans women as perpetrators of extreme violence pose a greater risk to men rather than women!)
This debate has not moved on in a year and trans women remain under fire for “Not being real women”. It’s time for all women, all minorities and/or oppressed to stand together for equality, human rights and mutual respect. It’s #PressforProgress not regress.
Reclaim the Night and Take Back the Night began in the late 1970s, a time when women and LGBT people had been standing side by side to advance gay rights and women’s rights. 1970s American lesbian radical feminists embraced their trans sisters until the 1979 publication of Janice Raymond’sTransexual Empire and attacks on Sandy Stone. Now it appears some women and media muck-rakers are trying to take us back to the 70s!
It’s an age-old war fast becoming an old age war. It is dividing feminists of one generation from feminists of the next. It is defeating our common aims of reducing violence and oppression because we are divided against ourselves.
Today has been used by a number of feminists as an opportunity to leave the Labour Party en masse for its defence and inclusion of trans women (in accordance with equality laws).
The first attack, I mean “free speech debate”, that I saw in the media was timed to coincide with International Women’s Day and was by Judith Green of A Women’s Place UK calling it “transgender activists and the real waron women“.
I would have thought that the real war on women was from Boko Haram, Saudi Arabia, FGM, everyday sexism and stereotyping, Harvey Weinstein, #MeToo and
Not from a handful of trans people who in almost equal numbers now are traversing the gender divide and leaving biological birth essentialist determinism behind thus showing that neither the gender construct nor birth lottery need define you. Surely, that IS feminism?
We are stronger together than tearing each other apart. I am proud and pleased that the April WOW festival in Norwich, like Reclaim the Night, is trans and non-binary inclusive, male allies and victims of abuse and gender role oppression also.
It is time we stood together,
it is time we rise up together, and
it is time we marched together,
to reclaim the media high ground,
to reclaim our study and workplaces, and
to reclaim the day and the night as sisters diverse but not divided!
For united we stand, divided we fall.
Safe streets for women, trans and all!
Wonderful night! Thank you so much to everyone who showed up for #NorwichReclaimTheNight2018 and dug into their pockets to donate to @LeewayDV and to all the readers and speakers! A great inclusive way to mark #IWD
[There are no apologies for what follows, on a day such as this, these things need to be called out, trigger warnings of statistics of abuse but no details of abuse]
Norwich Rising (EDP report), in its sixth year, is a part of One Billion Rising, founded by Eve Ensler in 2012 and celebrated usually on 14 February to combat and end violence against women and girls. In 1998, the V-day (Victory, Valentine & Vagina) movement grew out of her Vagina Monologues performances and a campaign to support domestic violence shelters and agencies. Art and activism come together to support female victims of abuse.
What follows is the text of my speech at the event. As someone born male, but now transitioned, and having been in both some amazing relationships and some abusive ones, I am always both honoured and ashamed to be invited to speak at these events. Honoured to be included, ashamed of what (mostly) men have done to women.
That these ‘Rising’ events take place on Valentine’s Day serves to remind us that not all love is loving; that on this day some people would be better off leaving rather than staying in their relationships, and that so much ‘romanticism’ can be coercive control especially when used with ill intent to prey upon the vulnerable.
Text of Speech
Just walking up to the Norwich Rising event I overheard two guys describing a woman as a fat pussy. When we reduce people to their body parts, we dehumanise them and make abuse easier.
This last year has been the year of Donald Trump and pussy hat women’s marches, the year of the #MeToo movement against abuse in the movies and media industry and the likes Harvey Weinstein, the year of the Presidents Club charity dinner for sexist dinosaurs, and just this week the boasting of the Philippine President of how he ordered the shooting of female rebels in the vagina because without one, women are useless.
It’s also been the week of ongoing revelations in the charity sector, of Oxfam’s workers sexual exploitation in Haiti and other humanitarian agencies admitting similar; up to 10% of female workers abroad had been sexually assaulted or witnessed abuse. Even at home, there a 6 allegations a year of abuse in Oxfam shops.
Every year we have events like this, we get asked “What about the men?” Yes they get abused, raped and killed too, but not nearly in the same quantity or severity. Of course we want to end violence and abuse against all people, by people of all genders. The reality, though, is that 3x as many women as men are killed in domestic situations. A third of the men are also killed by men and another third by women who had been abused by men. 15x more men than women are convicted of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse is massive, over a million women a year, 10% of all recorded crime, but only 10% are prosecuted, fewer still convicted. Half of women in prison are themselves the victims of domestic violence.
People aren’t born abusers, they witness, repeat, and learn sexism from media stereotypes and scenes of graphic sexual exploitation and violence. We need to educate now not later in life. Consent and respect classes for pupils reduced rape offending rates by half in Kenya.
The UK government just closed its consultation on the sex education – whilst the opt out is all but gone the way it is taught remains a grey area. It should be compulsory and standardised in all schools. It should not have taken till now to be teaching better attitudes to all, without exception.
It’s also been a year of challenge to trans women and whether they present a risk to women’s safe spaces. Of 4 support services I’ve spoken to in this region they are all trans supportive but also risk assess all service users and workers.
Yes, 12 transgender spectrum people committed murders over the last decade, 7 victims were male, 4 female, and 1 was a trans on trans killing. Men are twice as likely as women to be the victims of transgender perpetrators of serious violence. Trans people are disproportionately likely to be victims.
We can all twist statistics, and these figures mask different degrees of abuse, but 1 in 5 men face abuse within relationships, 1 in 4 LGB, 1 in 3 women, 1 in 2 trans people (mostly female-identified), but every one is one too many. Hashtag #TimesUp.
It is time to stop violence against women and girls be it domestic, sexual coercion and violence, or ritualistic FGM. Misogyny, molestation, mutilation and murder of women and girls must stop.
Don’t send a card for Valentine’s, send a message – NO MORE violence or abuse.
I’ll end by quoting just two verses from the intersectional poem against sexism and racism by Maya Angelou:
Just how representative of the UK population as a whole were prospective parliamentary candidates and elected MPs in terms of gender, sexuality, disability, religion and colour/race/ethnicity? 97 new MPs joined the house, and Ken Clarke MP was re-elected as its oldest member and Father of the House. It is well known that, hitherto, the UK had the most LGB ‘out’ Parliament in the world, but not the most gender balanced, how has that changed after Theresa May‘s snap general election?
2017 sees 208 female Members of Parliament, up from 191 in 2015 (196 after by-elections). There were many seats where both the main candidates standing were female. 29% of candidates were women, 32% of those elected were – both records for the UK but not the world.
We were 46th in the world tables, we are now 39th. Guess who is first? Rwanda with 61% women, second is Bolivia with 53%. All others are less than 50%. Sweden (#6), Finland (#9), and Norway (#12=) are the top European nations, all Scandinavian. The first Western European nation is Spain at 14th and Belgium at 19th. Germany is 22nd but France 63rd! At this rate, 2062 would see gender balance in the UK Parliament.
Labourfielded 40% women, the Green Party 35% (statistically, of course, 100% of their MPs are female!), UKIP had 13%. Of those elected, there is wide variation among the political parties. Labour have 45% (119) and their leader in Scotland but never England (except as caretaker). Meanwhile, there are just 21% (67) among Conservative MPs despite a history of two Prime Ministers and their leader in Scotland.
Interesting that the DUP, the Conservatives in Scotland, and the Tories in England and Wales are all led by right-wing women, one of whom is anti-gay, another is gay, and another shifted to same-sex equality (through persuasion by a female LibDem MP) after a prior voting and campaigning record against it. Being a woman, it seems, is little impediment to political power in the UK. Indeed, add in Plaid Cymru, SNP, and for two weeks, even UKIP, only Labour (England and Wales) and LibDems haven’t been led by a woman.
Being female is no guarantee that one will hold pro-equality, pro-LGBT views. We now have a triumvirate of female-led parties forming a “confidence and supply” alliance to keep the Tories in power that may be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.
LGBTIQ Sexuality & Gender Identity
With 45 openly LGB MPs (19 Tory, 19 Labour, 7 SNP) that’s also a record and 6 up from 2015 – at 6.9% that’s close to the supposed 6% openly LGB numbers in the population (much higher among young people, of course). None among the 12 LibDems, though their female MPs balance at 4 out of 12 is somewhat restored.
Seven Trans and two Non-Binary candidates stood (just 4 in 2015, so, more than doubling) but none were elected, several have stood in council elections before. Eddie Izzard continues to hint that he may stand as an MP.
UK LGB MPs are the highest proportion anywhere in the world. We have the most rainbow Parliament – quite an affront to the homophobic DUP with whom 19 LGB Tory MPs may now have to do electoral business with.
Since 4.5% of the people standing for election (147/3304) were openly LGBTQ, it means that LGB candidates are up to 1.5x more likely to win. Tories and Labour had 7% LGBT candidates, SNP 17% and 20% of their elected MPs, despite reduced numbers. Surprisingly, only 2% of Greens (same as UKIP!) and 4% of LibDems were. White gay men outweigh any other LGBTQ demographic 5x and are the most likely to be elected. Curiously almost zero LGBT candidates stood in Greater East Anglia! There’s an opening for me yet 😉
Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic MPs
Of the 147 LGBTQ candidates, just one was BME, in 2015 that was two – both shamefully low, though we don’t know the number of non-out candidates. However, 51 BME MPs were elected on 8 June – an increase of 10. At 7.8% this is just over half of the 14% general population representation.
Britain also elected its first MP of Palestinian heritage as Layla Moran for the LibDems “overturned a Conservative majority of almost 10,000 votes to win the Oxford West and Abingdon. Moran won the closely contested election by only 816, gaining 26,252 votes.”
Just four openly physically disabled MPs were elected, 0.6% of Parliament, compared with 16% of the UK. Mental health is so stigmatised, one wonders if it were possible for someone to be ‘out’ with a diagnosed long term condition and an MP, other than depression and anxiety that affect 1-in-4 of us, and undoubtedly affect MPs similarly. It would be great to see a bipolar MP, to show it is possible to manage a bipolar life.
The new Parliament sees the UK’s first female Sikh MP, Preet Gill and its first turbaned male Sikh, Tanmanjeet Dhesi. Both are Labour MPs. In the past we’ve had 5 Sikh MPs in the last 15 years but never wearing a turban in the House of Commons.
In the wake of the Manchester concert bombing, it is perhaps significant that the city elected its first Muslim MP, Afzal Khan – who was also ten years ago their youngest and first British Pakistani and Muslim, Mayor of Manchester.
It shouldn’t matter, but it is interesting nonetheless with accusations that the Tories were run by the Eton and Bullingdon Club set, and even many who stood as Labour leader being Oxbridge educated.
The Sutton Trust believes that 51% of MPs were educated in comprehensive schools, and just 29% at public schools (ie privately educated). It is still disproportionately biased to private education, therefore.
In conclusion, our LGB representation continues to be the highest in the world, across the three largest parties – but not elsewhere, and close to the assumed proportion of the general population. Several Trans, Non-Binary and similar, stood but at 9 out of 3300, they are about 10x underrepresented in standing, and to date unelectable; are they being stood as no-risk candidates in unelectable areas, that’s an analysis I’ve not done yet. On gender, we are getting there slowly, but ranking 39th in the world is a poor result, albeit an improved one. Realistically with parenting issues, 45% of Parliament would be a good showing for women, rather than the 32% we have. BME and disability remain woefully underrepresented. How a Tory deal with the DUP, who are anti-diversity on just about every count, can be squared with Parliament and the electorate’s ever-progressive diversity, remains to be seen.
White Ribbon Day (#WhiteRibbonDay) and #OrangeTheWorld are both campaigns today, 25 November, marking the start of 16 days of activism against gender abuse on the UN International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women (IDEVAW). Whilst people are more real than statistics, nonetheless, the stats are representations of the reality of some people’s lives, they make sobering reading. Sixteen days won’t end violence against women and girls, but it might be the beginning of the end, if we start to say ‘no’ every day and give women back control, power and agency over their bodies and lives. The 16-day-long campaign ends on Human Rights Day, 10 December, but shouldn’t stop there.
12 Facts about Violence towards Women
2 women each week are killed by an ex or current partner (UK), 40-50% of all murders of women worldwide are by family or partners, but just 4-5% of men
1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 transwomen experience domestic abuse, in some countries those figures are 2 in 3, up to 71% (Ethiopia)
Even Universities are not safe where 1 in 7 young women experience abuse or violence
Up to 30% (eg Bangladesh) of women experience their first sexual act as forced
Forced marriage and sex tourism often go hand-in-hand with low ages of consent e.g., 9 (Afghanistan), 12 (Philippines), 13 (Japan), regularly 14-15 in other Asian countries. Rural areas may allow marriage even younger with sex at puberty (age 9 or earlier). Among Sri Lanka’s Moor and Malay minorities under 12 is permitted with the permission of male leaders or relatives!
Over the last year 295 trans people were killed, mostly transwomen
More facts about violence against women from WHO, UN Women.
“I’m a simple village girl who has always obeyed the orders of my father and brothers. Since forever, I have learned to say yes to everything. Today I have decided to say no…I want a divorce!…You’ve sullied the reputation of our family! You have stained our honor!” – Nujood Ali, I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced
Change Men* and Society to Eliminate Causes of Violence
Violence and abuse are possible because of physical, social, religious and economic power imbalances. Men should not have power and control over women’s fortunes, choices, and bodies. This is manifested in legal, religious, cultural and political ways including victim shaming, reduced legal rights, and religious traditions. Women need human rights and agency over their bodies and lives, freedom to safely and economically exit abusive relationships, and for authorities to take seriously the claims of sexual and physical violence.
(*Men in the main, as they have the power, and are the main perpetrators, but this does not exlude women on women and girls violence)
Every 29 hours a trans person is murdered in the world, 295 were reported up to this year’s annual 20 November Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). Most, some 85%, were in the Americas, but even in Europe, 5 were killed in each of Italy and Turkey. In Asia at least 11 across India and Pakistan. North America had 23 reported murders of transgender people, but Brazil had 123, ten times as many per capita. Honduras is, in fact, the most dangerous place per head of population, twice as bad as Brazil, with 89 people killed over 8 years of reporting. Over the last 8 years, some 52 trans people have been stoned to death – and not by ISIS, one just 3 weeks ago in Brazil; 630 were killed in the street, many as sex workers, but it begs the question about bystanders and communities not noticing or standing up as allies; one victim in Pakistan was refused medical treatment because she was trans, speeding her death.
These numbers are just the tip of the iceberg as statistics are based upon scouring news reports and some people may only be listed as a sex worker and/or their trans status not mentioned. Some may not have been killed because they were trans, but many were. Also, the numbers do not include the 33-50% of trans people who also try to take their own lives through suicide.
2264 Trans Lives lost Violently
Over 2008-2016 since the Trans Murder Monitoring (TMM) TvT Project has been running, 2264 have been killed. By far the largest, 541 were sex workers, but 99 hairdressers and beauticians, 34 artists, and 25 activists were counted among the dead as well as 9 religious leaders.
Trans Awareness Week/Month
As an antidote, it has been a pleasure and a privilege to be involved in several talks and discussions during Trans Awareness Week, or even a full month being celebrated by some. UEA, my local university, was particularly busy with events on each day, in conjunction with other societies such as FemSoc and Pride. Events covered non-binary questions, trans student politics, Ava Rollason sharing her colourful life and journey, and the growth of diversity and even dissent within and towards trans* identities.
Trans Visibility without the Violence
Trans people have indeed reached a “tipping point” and yet that has not diminished their risk of harm – self, and assailant-based. With shockingly high suicide risks, 80% consider it, and 33-50% act on it, trans people are especially vulnerable, and now, especially visible.
With around 0.75 to 2.5% or more people identifying as transgender and/or non-binary, one interesting visualisation is that there could be on average around 250-1000 trans* people at each UK premiership football match.
Visibility without risk of violence is what trans people are seeking, although many would no doubt prefer a form of passing invisibility as opposed to a discriminatory erasure or prejudicial ignorance.
Many have called 2015 the year of transgender visibility, after 2014’s “transgender tipping point” but what does that make 2016? One hopes that whilst deaths and murders are on the rise, that also, acceptance, diversity, and rights, are also increasing, and the killings are a temporary peak and will subside as countries make healthcare and transition access easier and more affordable, reducing the risks of sex work as a means of paying for surgeries. It should be noted that the primary victims of trans violence are trans people of colour, and that Trans Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter should be trending side by side, particularly as they were at the forefront of the emergence of trans rights in the USA. This month we remember the dead, celebrate the living, and offer hope to transgender people all over the world, and stand against the hate that takes so many of our lives.
Yesterday, around the UK, from London to Edinburgh, Birmingham, Oxford and Cambridge, tens of thousands marched for Europe in an attempt to #paintitblue ahead of parliamentary discussion of the 4-million-plus second referendum petition. Peter Tatchell joined the march and Eddie Izzard, in high heels, gave chase…
Orange is the New Black
Meanwhile, Theresa May was away in orange declaring to the US and China that “Brexit means Brexit“, “Free trade means free”, and Britain’s independence would be great – how quick they change their tune, or rather outfits?
Political Language turning the air Blue
“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell
In an article in the Economist about how Republicans and Democrats in the US use political language, it was asserted that liberals try to talk facts and policies whilst conservatives are unafraid to aim for the gut.
“…conservatives use language more effectively than liberals in communicating their deepest values” – George Lakoff, The Little Blue Book: The Essential Guide to Thinking and Talking Democratic
The language of politics has also become the toxic language of hate, turning the language of the streets, rallies and even political advertising, blue – not pro-EU, but xenophobia and anti-immigrant fear and racism, both leading up to and since Brexit.
All Black takes on Pink Beret
In other news, europhile Eddie Izzard in hat and heels had his pink beret “headgear stolen near Downing Street by a man dressed in all black with a balaclava covering half his face. Despite wearing high heels, Izzard gave furious chase as police caught the man and tore back his beret while he was pinned to the floor. He then dusted off the pink garment and placed it back on his head before marching to Parliament Square.” – Guardian
Eddie Izzard said: “There was one guy… he went up and snatched my beret – which has a British flag and an EU flag on – and he marched off, he stole it.” The comedian said of the police that they “did fantastic”:
“…there was an inspector, some other officers in there, they took him down. I got my beret back, but it’s gone off as evidence – my beret is now in evidence. I’m out, transgender for 31 years and if anyone steals my pink beret, I’ll get it back.” – BBC
Just to keep things serious, here’s The Pink Berets from the movie Hop (2011):
Now let’s stop obsessing about what trans people or female politicans wear and get back to what really matters. Oh ok, here’s a quick survey of what female leaders are wearing this season, Eddie – get on trend!